Although the case-based reasoning (CBR) process is domain dependent, certain aspects of it can readily be captured into a generic framework which in turn can be applied to various engineering domains. One such exercise that has been carried out is described here. In this paper, we present the notion that CBR can be formalized and applied in a specialized framework in an integrated knowledge-based environment. We first analyze the CBR process to abstract the steps involved in the development of a CBR system. We then propose a framework in which most of these steps are formalized so that they can be applied in a domain-independent manner. The salient features of this framework, called CASETOOL (CASE-based reasoning TOOL-kit), are then described. The highlight of this approach is the use of a concept called design criticism in the CBR process. The versatility of the tool is demonstrated through an application from the bridge engineering domain. © 1995, Cambridge University Press. All rights reserved.